Librarians at U of M Meet Research Complex’ Diverse Needs

AKA Article Summary #6

In 2009, the University of Michigan selected to acquire and develop a 28-building research complex, which became known as the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC).  The facilities provided housing for research projects revolving around 7 major programs within the university, and a staff of 2,135 people.  The acquisition of the complex resulted in the need for a more involved library role, which would provide the complex and its users necessary tools and information to complete their work.  The University Library (MLibrary) developed a focused library, which would be at the new facilities disposal, and it would be called MLibrary@NCRC.  The specialized library officially opened its doors in July of 2012, after the research discussed below took place, and the primary positions were created.

In order to properly assess the needs of the students, researchers, staff, and faculty of NCRC, the librarians working within the newly opened library chose to disseminate a survey, as well as complete a variety of interviews.  Their research found 5 major themes related to information needs of the complex: lack of awareness of Taubman Health Sciences Library (THL) services and resources, patron preference for interacting with a person, barriers to sharing information, general challenges related to the complex university environment, and interest in and need for THL-provided workshops or training sessions.

Based on the findings of the surveys and interviews, the THL selected a few key librarians to fulfill roles which would begin their attempt at strengthening library presence at NCRC.  The first of these positions is a Bioinformationist, whose role is as diverse as the next two that are discussed in the article.  The Bioinformationist’s primary focuses are training, outreach, and programming.  She works closely with the Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, building relationships with staff, faculty, and students.  The second crucial position developed was that of the Public/Private Librarian, whose primary role is to create and manage partnerships.  One example of a partnership developed was with the Business Engagement Center and Business Development – the librarian even held office hours within the Business Development unit.  The third and final position created to be tailored the diverse needs of the complex, was that of a “traditional” Research Librarian.  This librarian’s role was to act as a liaison to the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, providing in-depth consultations related to citation databases and support researchers, staff, and administrators who work in preclinical, clinical and translations research.

The librarians utilized a variety of metrics, in order to measure whether or not their roles were meeting the needs of the diverse population of individuals they served.  They continue to use these to monitor and strengthen their program, always ensuring they are doing everything they can to provide their users with the proper tools and education.

If nothing else, this article provided yet another example of how varied the field of librarianship can be.  The needs of the user will always dictate the role of the librarian, it is crucial that those in our profession are constantly assessing and paying attention to needs and wants of our patrons.  We exist because they require our aid, without them we would out of a job! 🙂



Smith, J. E., Brandenburg, M. D., Conte, M. L., & Song, J. (2014). Innovative information service development: meeting the information needs of an interdisciplinary, cross-sector research complex. Journal Of The Medical Library Association, 102(1), 8-13 6p. doi:10.3163/1536-5050.102.1.004


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